Archives as Contemporary Object 'X' Archives as Contemporary Object 'X'

Archives as Contemporary Object 'X'

Podcast series

The Archive as Contemporary Object ‘X’ (ArCo-X) is a podcast series project that investigates through discourse, the nature of the archival today, seeking to unpack the several system issues affecting the world around us, through a multifocal lens of archiving as artistic, curatorial, and research praxis. In these critical discussions, the invited speakers – critical thinkers, media theorists, data law and policymakers, social activists, political theorists, art and cultural workers, as well as the moderator/hosts – will examine how data censorship, power/knowledge matrix, and direct, structural, and cultural forms of violence affect the way we interface with data and shape our online archives. The project is crucial in consolidating the active and present voices to reveal how ‘queer anti-racist post-internet aesthetics’ may be utilised to create ‘Politically Conscious Archives’ for the future: as open-source, free, online platforms.

The first six episodes will be broadcasted as part of online programming for Party Office during documenta(15)

As a project, ArCo-X is based on the premise forwarded by Anne-Françoise Schmid, who claims that “today we are faced with objects that are, at once, acts of aggression and choreographed performances and technological simulations and training exercises. We have to find a new way to describe such objects; in a certain sense, they exist in a properly interdisciplinary or non-disciplinary place, a place described by the points at which they become unknown to each discipline. (schmid: 2021)

About Archives as Contemporary Object (X)

ArCo-X

As a project, ArCo-X is based on the premise forwarded by Anne-Françoise Schmid, who claims that “today we are faced with objects that are, at once, acts of aggression and choreographed performances and technological simulations and training exercises. We have to find a new way to describe such objects; in a certain sense, they exist in a properly interdisciplinary or non-disciplinary place, a place described by the points at which they become unknown to each discipline. (schmid: 2021)

The Archive is such an object, that as a field of study can no longer neatly fit within its own domain. Despite a division into various sub-disciplines, there still exist too many gaps through which a comprehensive and contemporary understanding of archives elude us.

A critical starting point for mapping this new ecology of data archives lies in recognising and addressing the key issues of our age, where we are living in the age of rising ethnofascism and disintegrating democracies, where conflicts, pandemics, human crises have become just another tool for capitalist societies to recycle pain. There is increasing information overload; online interfaces for knowledge are steadily becoming opaque; and the data we produce serves the capitalist pursuits of Surveillance Empires, corporations and necropolitical governments. By declaring ownership of their users’ data, and engaging in behavioural manipulations for data extractivism, Surveillance Empires have forced the creation of new categories to explain the production and accumulation of ‘value’ in capitalism: such as Attention Economy (Davenport & Beck: 2001; Celis Bueno: 2017); Surveillance Capitalism (Zuboff: 2019), and Computational Capitalism (Beller: 2018). This, in turn, reshapes political world orders based on disenfranchisement, creating necropolitical governments of management, techno-legal architectures of control, and legalised policing of ‘Direct, Structural, and Cultural Violence’ – the age of ‘Planetary Entanglement’ (Mbembe: 2021).

Archives, fortified through multiple performativities, as ‘politics of knowledge’; ‘knowledge economies’; and ‘power-knowledge relations’; become a ‘productive force’ for biopolitical apparatus (Agamben: 2009). Such apparatus, as a Foucauldian machinery of governance, is not fixated on security or welfare but on the premise of dispensability (Mbembe: 2019). The project seeks to centralise the ‘dispensable bodies, objects, data, and networks’ as key subjects, to reveal dominant narratives and the structural management of violence through their interactions with systemic conditions like globalisation, financialisation, socio-political issues of gender, class, race, caste, class, as histories of oppression.

Yet, an online user’s participation can cultivate or disrupt the commodification of data on the Net. Archives, especially those created online, have the potential to counter traditional understandings of power. ArCO-X, as interdisciplinary conversations will provide a techno-political map for creating politically conscious archives: archives that articulate the current paradigm shift in our understanding of the political, and that as witnesses, embody the responsibility of giving testimony to histories or truths of occurrences, seeking to re-imagine the ‘archives’ as spaces for confrontation and dissonance, fundamentally altering the capacity of us as users “to be active participants in the public sphere as opposed to its passive readers, listeners, or viewers”. It is positioned as an appeal for archives as being not burdened only with the past and the idea of memory, but as containers of imagination – through which we may envision politically conscious futures.

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  1. Anne-Françoise Schmid, On Contemporary Objects. 2012. Accessed 17, March 2021.
  2. https://primer.dk/onsite/Projects/Ripe/Anne-Francoise-Schmid-On-Contemporary-Objects-2012
  3. Agamben, Giorgio. What is an Apparatus and Other Essays?. (trans.) David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella, Stanford University Press (Stanford: California). 2009
  4. Mbembe, Achille. Necropolitics. (trans.) Steven Corcoran, Duke University Press (Durham and London), 2019 Mbembe, Achille. The idea of a Borderless Word. lecture at Rokoko hall of the Government of Swabia, 2018
  5. Vishmidt, Marina. 2017. Between Not Everything and Not Nothing: Cuts Towards Infrastructural Critique. In: Maria Hlavajova and Simon Sheikh, (eds.) Former West: Art and the Contemporary After 1989. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  6. Zuboff, Shoshana. The age of surveillance capitalism: the fight for a human future at the new frontier of power. Profile Books, 2019
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